A Study in Iowa: Teaching Food Safety in Secondary FCS Classes

Article excerpt

Food safety is a significant issue in the United States and yet minimal research has been done on the inclusion of food safety in secondary school curricula.This study examined the feasibility of including food safety in Iowa FCS middle and secondary classes.Teachers reported food safety was important; only a few believed students were knowledgeable about food safety. Food safety is frequently included in Iowa FCS secondary classes. Including or increasing food safety education in FCS classes does not mean that all students will receive the instruction, but it is a feasible step toward educating young consumers-an important segment of the foodservice workforce.

Teaching food safety in family and consumer sciences (FCS) curricula would be a positive step toward educating a younger population of consumers-an important segment of the foodservice workforce. Between 1996 and 1998, nearly one third of students age 15 to 17 worked in food and beverage businesses during the school year (Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], 2000). Student employment in food and beverage establishments has increased since the late 1970s (BLS, 2000) and has a growing potential impact on food safety in retail foodservice. Consumer expenditures on food eaten outside of the home have increased from 36% in 1975 to 47% in 2003 (U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2004).

High school students are increasingly involved in the foodservice work force and they are not knowledgeable about food safety topics such as foodborne pathogens, food items associated with foodborne illnesses, and sources of food safety problems (Ellis, Sebranek, & Sneed, 2004). Barclay, Greathouse, Swisher, Tellefson, Cale, & Koukol (2003 ) found that it is important to educate students about food safety at an early age and continue the education throughout their schooling because safe handling practices diminish with age.

One way to reach high school students is to teach food safety and handling practices in FCS classes. The FCS national standards include food safety. FCS teachers already teach food preparation and health and could easily integrate food safety education into the curricula. Food safety education included in food and nutrition coursework can supplement informal efforts to teach consumers about preventing pathogen contamination of food (Hillers, Swanson, & Wilken, 1994).

Little research has been done on teaching food safety in schools. Existing studies evaluate students' knowledge and attitudes regarding food safety (Barclay et al., 2003; Ellis et al., 2004; Endres, Welch, & Perseli, 2001; Trexler & Roeder, 2003) but they do not examine educational programs, resource development, or evaluation.

This study examined the feasibility of Iowa FCS classes teaching food safety principles. Research objectives included: (a) measure FCS teachers' food safety knowledge; (b) evaluate FCS teachers' attitudes toward food safety; (c) determine extent to which FCS teachers are teaching, or could teach, food safety concepts; and (d) identify teaching resources most beneficial to FCS teachers.



All 484 teachers in the Iowa State University (ISU) Family and Consumer Sciences Education and Studies program were included in the study.

Survey Instrument

Components of the researcher-developed survey, including the 10 knowledge and four of the attitude questions specifically related to food handling and preparation, were adapted from a previous survey (Medeiros, Kendall, Hillers, Chen, & DiMascola, 2001). The Iowa State University Institution Review Board approved the survey prior to use. The survey was reviewed for clarity and comprehensiveness by ISU faculty with food safety and education experience prior to mailing.

The first section of the survey measured teachers' knowledge of food safety principles with 10 questions: seven True/False and three multiple choice. …